Tom Petters killed Polaroid, making way for massive art auction

"Avalanche," by William Wegman
"Avalanche," by William Wegman

To be fair, instant photo company Polaroid was a victim of the digital age and in a lot of financial trouble long before Ponzi schemer Tom Petters bought the company in 2008.

At one point in the 1960s, the company says, its cameras and films were in about half of all the homes in America. But as fickle consumers went digital, Polaroid was left to cater to hobbyists, artists and collectors. That's hardly a robust consumer base, but Polaroid photographs created by elite artists hangs in some of the world's most prestigious galleries and collections.

Thousands of the images also belong to Polaroid. And now, as The New York Times reports, the bankruptcy court in Minnesota handling the Petters case is allowing Polaroid to sell a portion of its collection at Sotheby's in New York to help make good on Petters' debts. The auction will be held in June.

Among the art on the block: 400 landscape photographs by Ansel Adams, as well as work by Chuck Close, William Wegman, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hockney, Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol. The 1,200 pieces are expected to fetch $7.5 million to $11.5 million.

(Photo geeks and art critics may be interested in former Village Voice columnist A.D. Coleman's continuing coverage of the Polaroid fiasco.)

Ansel Adams' "Aspens, Northern New Mexico"
Ansel Adams' "Aspens, Northern New Mexico"

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